Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Lots to cover ...

My parents were in town this weekend to celebrate Christmas a bit early, so you'll have to excuse me for the lack of updates for the past couple of days. Of course, this also happened to be an extremely busy week in GT athletics so I have a bunch of stuff to get caught up on - doesn't that always seem to be the case?

Baby Jackets on the Hardwood -

GT hosted Tennessee State this weekend in basketball, a game the Jackets won 82-72. Before the game even started, there was news with Paul Hewitt laying the law down to Ra'Sean Dickey by benching him in favor of Theodus Tarver, as the continuing problem of Dickey's inconsistent effort raised it's head again. I really hope that Dickey listens to the coaching staff and learns to apply himself on a continual basis, because he has a tremendous amount of talent and this team won't reach it's potential without him playing up to his abilities. There's little question that Tarver was starting more as a message to Dickey than anything else, Hewitt said as much when he commented that "He's got to do it. If you find yourself motivating someone all the time, you're basically counting the days until you lose or until disaster. If you have to constantly motivate somebody, your team's not going to win." Dickey is a key piece to this team over the next three years, and while it's not uncommon for young players to have problems reproducing the same effort level every game - we're in a situation where our young players have to mature more rapidly than normal. It will be interesting to see if Dickey earns his starting job back in practice this week, and maybe we'll see more of the Michigan State level effort and not the Georgia lack thereof.

During the actual game itself, Jeremis Smith continued his tremendous play to begin the year with a near triple double (22 / 11 / 8). Smith also made up for his dismal 9-21 free throw shooting performance against Georgia by going 10-10 from the line, and more impressively has now shot 60 free throws in the first seven games compared to 112 for the entire rest of the team. Getting to the line with the regularity that he is a great way to see just how effective he has been in the low blocks and just how hard he's played to begin the season, and Hewitt confirmed that by saying "People asked me if I was worried about his 21 free throw attempts (vs. Georgia) and the missed free throws. I told him this morning, Jeremis if you go to the foul line 21 times a game, you'll be an all-American." Also, evidently Tennessee State isn't bringing in the brighest bulbs in the box to play for them, as Smith was the recipient of two extremely hard fouls - or maybe a couple of guys just had a wish to end up nursing a few bruises, Smith is probably the last guy on the court you'd think someone would be trying to start a fight with. Smith is going to be the man who holds this team together, his relentless effort and work ethic are the sort of things that teammates feed off of during a season.

Also, Anthony Morrow had an off night shooting the basketball from the 3pt line ... and yet still chipped in 17 points. He's showing that even when his shot isn't falling, he's able to still put points up on the scoreboard with his midrange game, attacking the basket and drawing fouls. I wasn't sure coming into the season if he was going to plateau as a 3pt specialist or grow into an all around scorer, and he's clearly becoming the latter. Morrow is going to score a ton of points before his career is over, and he's going to be an All-ACC caliber player possibly as early as this year. His maturation from the timid freshman who passed up open shots into the stone cold assassin with the wickedly quick release you saw against Michigan State is going to be one of the big stories for GT basketball this year.

Overall, the Tennessee State game was a good showing for the young Jackets, as they bounced back from the ugly loss to UGa and put a solid effort together for most of the game. There's a ton of room for growth, and the Dickey situation is troubling, but there's also a number of bright spots and as the experience comes, so will the consistency.

25,000 'hoos staying home in Charlottesville -

One of the reasons that UVa is in the Music City Bowl and not Georgia Tech is because Virginia was pushing the fact that they'd bring 30,000 fans to the game. Well, it turns out that Georgia Tech has sold out our entire 11,500 ticket allotment to the Emerald Nut Bowl all the way out in San Francisco and UVa has sold somewhere in the range of less than 5,000 tickets to the Nashville game. Good choice Music City Bowl committee, you really made a wise choice there! Also, this has been a huge push by the GT fans to sell out our tickets (many of them being donated to men and women in the Armed Forces), further proving to future bowl games that GT fans will support our team in large numbers. Don't think this won't be brought up in later seasons when bowls are looking at teams to invite, if the Jackets are in your game, you're going to sell tickets. For those people buying tickets in 20, 30 and even 50 seat blocks for our troops and their families to get chances to see the game, thank you for your support of not only GT athletics, but also our military.

Commitments and more Commitments -

This was a pretty good weekend for the much maligned recruiting efforts of Chan Gailey and his staff, getting 4 commits from players who should all make large contributions during their times in Atlanta. Going into this offseason, the GT staff had identified a couple of key positions that needed to be filled, and after this weekend it's down to a DT and a Safety that we still need to bring onboard.

The first commit of the weekend came from Jamaal Evans, a running back from Irving High School in Texas. He is ranked as the #4 All-Purpose back in the country by and had back to back 2,000+ yard seasons in Texas's 5A category. At 5'8" and 185lbs. with 4.4 speed, he is extremely shifty and quick with excellent balance who has been compared to Warrick Dunn. What is interesting is that Evans is not the between the tackles pounder that P.J Daniels has been over the past 4 years and with Choice, Grant and Evans on board, we might be seeing a bit of a change in rushing philosphy over the next couple of years. Evans finished his career on a high note, rushing for 272 yards and 2 TD's in his final game, and plans on enrolling early at GT (though he will count against next year's scholarship limit). More pictures and information about Evans can be found at

Continuing the commitment parade, Quincy Kelly is a RB/LB from Decatur High School in Georgia who accepted a scholarship offer. Kelly is the opposite of Evans at 6'1" 225lb and a punishing runner who had a huge year in Class AA. Kelly might end up playing linebacker at GT, but if Gailey ends up looking down his bench for a big bruising back to pound it between the tackles with, Kelly will certainly get some attention for that role as well. Kelly has played in a smaller class in Georgia and flown a bit under the recruiting radar, and with the possibility of changing positions he will probably be a candidate for a redshirt next season - but that's pure speculation on my part.

The third commit of the week came from 6'4" 215lb wide receiver Demaryius Thomas who is out of West Laurens High School in Georgia. Thomas is the second big time Georgia WR to choose GT over UGa in recent years (Calvin Johnson being the other), and he gives us another big physical receiver to replace Bilbo and match up opposite of CJ. Thomas comes to school having only really played WR for two seasons, and doesn't quite have the track speed and polish that CJ brought to the table right from the start, but he's going to be a terrific player in his own right. WR was already one of the strengths of next year's team, but Thomas should add too that depth right from the beginning. Of all of the guys we were pursuing this year, Thomas is the one I wanted the most - big wideouts with great hands don't exactly grow on trees and he's got all the tools to continue the recent trend of great WR's at Tech (Campbell, White, Johnson ...)

Finally, word came in late today that Osahon Tongo had also commited to GT. Tongo is a 6'2" 223lb linebacker out of Naperville North in the suburban Chicago area. Tongo had been on GT's radar for a while, and had recently completed a recruiting trip to campus to take in the UGa game - coming away impressed enough to choose Atlanta as the city he's going to play his college football in. Tongo had 52 tackles, 7 TFL and 6 sacks this year and was named to the Illinois Class 8-A All-State Team. Tongo has a reputation of being a big hitter, though it's unclear if he's going to play middle or outside linebacker in college.

Overall, this year's recruiting class is shaping up to the best so far under Gailey, with quality players at every position we needed to get filled. Thomas and Evans have a chance to be the "star" players that every truly good class needs, but there is a ton of depth across the whole class. While I have been somewhat critical of Gailey's recruiting in the past, he has done a good job of finding guys who have flown under the radar, and there's more depth on the team now (especially on the defensive side of the ball) than I can ever remember. If we can keep that going, as well as add a couple of big time impact players each year, the football program should be in fine shape.


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